“Columbine High School/Littleton, Co.” Analytical Essay

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Ryan Douvlos
English 050
Analytical Essay

Imaginative writing is an art that expresses ideas and thoughts in an imaginative way. This art involves universal laws of human nature, and both time and place. Without connecting the reader through these principles, the author’s work is somewhat meaningless. In order for the author to gain something through his/her work, the author must be able to manipulate the perceptions of the reader. This can be done by successfully incorporating the five elements of craft found in literature. These elements function to focus the reader towards a specific end, and the five elements include: image, voice, character, setting and story. It is imperative that the author utilizes these elements to create a piece that stimulates emotions in the reader.

Albert Goldbarth does a great job of effectively using each of the five elements of craft in his poem, “Columbine High School/Littleton, CO.” The poem is only 23 lines long, but after comprehensively analyzing the piece, the analyzer can see that Goldbarth intricately and effectively weaves together the elements of craft and delivers a story with several different layers of a deeper underlying meaning that what appears at first glance.

Throughout the poem, there are separate images that appear to the reader. The first actual images revealed in this poem are the 15 crosses that represent the deaths of the high school students. Instantly the image of the crosses shifts to the photograph. In the picture is a woman, perhaps a mother of one of the murdered students, though this fact is left vague. It is left vague purposefully. It could be any of the mothers of the victims of this crime. The vagueness is meaningful in the sense that any of these women would be feeling the same amount of stress and sorrow that the woman in this photograph is feeling, and the author reveals the pain that the woman is feeling. We are able to see what is flowing from her brain into the wood she is leaning on; the grief that is too vast for her to handle. It is as if Goldbarth is not only letting grief flow upon the woman, but also the reader.

There are other images revealed later in this poem. There is a pure transition from the woman to the cup that she is holding. Similar to the woman, the cup is left just as vague. The vagueness presented is also intentional. We are shown the intricacies of the cup, however. We see the plastic lid, the straw, and the droplets formed on the side of the cup from condensation due to the negative reaction between the icy cold cup and the summer heat waves. The cup remains the focus for the duration of the poem. Goldham accurately, which is sometimes a challenge to do, incorporates personification in this poem. The wood in line 8 and 9 is personified, as Goldham implies that the wood can literally hold the grief of the woman. The cup can also represent a synecdoche in this poem. This cup stands for everybody. Anyone, at anytime, might hold this drink, might experience a tragedy at some point in our lives. All of the images in this poem are fundamental in the sense that the images evoke the senses of the reader, allowing the images to enhance the tone and meaning of the poem.

In this poem, the voice of the narrator is the author of the poem. The voice of the author influences the overall interpretation of the poem, and the words chosen, syntax, and sentence structure of this piece culminates to an overall effective and meaningful diction. The first seven lines of the piece are written in 3rd person objective, meaning the author is describing to the reader what can be seen in the particular images represented. Some may make an argument that lines 8 and 9 are also 3rd person objective, but the author is describing an image that cannot actually be seen, therefore these two lines are told from the limited omniscient perspective. The author then continues to stay in 3rd person from line 10, until a sudden change is present. The author...
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